By Gretchen Hjelmstad, American Red Cross
HOUSTON, Texas – When Eric Robinson fled his flooding home, he expected to find safety in an American Red Cross evacuation shelter. What he didn’t expect to find was a new version of himself.
“I never thought I’d be the type to volunteer,” he said, standing with folks who are now his fellow Red Cross workers.
“When I needed help, I also ended up helping the Red Cross,” the Houston resident said, recounting how he pitched in, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. “I helped them with the animals, (I) unloaded four buses of boxes of people’s belongings.”
Robinson also took it upon himself to keep an eye on other shelter residents, helping diffuse stressful situations.
“People were still shook up from the storm. Some had no idea where some of their loved ones were, so it was like I was a counselor or something, calming them down so we could all get on one page and one level together.”
When it was time to move from the Chinese Community Center to the emergency shelter on Houston’s Old Spanish Trail, Robinson was sad to leave the Red Cross volunteers he’d come to see as his own support team. “Now that I have become close to them and they understand me and feel me, I don’t want to leave them,” he said at the time.
But Robinson was pleased to find caring and compassion among the new Red Cross shelter crew. “I have met so many wonderful people.
“I thank the Red Cross, the whole organization, team, their staff, everybody that participated, volunteered. They are so tremendous, they are some wonderful people.”
Robinson said it’s been tough to hear people criticizing the Red Cross, when he has received food, shelter, care and support first hand.
“Red Cross is not letting them down, not turning them down. It’s so backed up with so much paperwork, they have to take time,” he said of the on-going financial assistance program which – as of Sept. 29 – has allocated nearly $150 million in emergency aid to some 370,000 households in Texas.
“Give Red Cross the opportunity to do what they have to do and I assure you they going to get to you – it may take a little time but just have patience and wait,” Robinson said. “Trust me, Red Cross is down for us.”
Robinson urges his community to support Red Cross disaster relief, as the organization continues to help hundreds of thousands of people with both immediate needs and planning for their long-term recovery.
“It’s important to donate to Red Cross because there are so many people who don’t have any support, financial assistance, or anyone to support them to help rebuild them back,” he said.
And when he gets back up on his feet, Robinson plans to don his own red vest. “Once I get settled and stable, I am joining the team officially.”